Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub
Okay, I admit it...I was predisposed to like the new novel Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures as the Old Hollywood setting is very appealing to me. Those of you who know me, know about my love of 1930's Hollywood: the movies, the stars, and the glamour. From what I’d read in interviews with Emma Straub, she did quite a bit of research about the Hollywood of yesteryear. Laura Lamont is a fictional character but she reminded me a whole lot of 1930's Hollywood movie queen, Norma Shearer. There were so many similarities. Knowing the Norma Shearer story, it was interesting to see how Straub seemed to take events of Shearer’s life and use them as a framework to create the character of Laura Lamont.
Of course there were differences, too. Right away the time frame was different: Shearer was born in 1902 in Canada and was already starring in films when the fictional Laura was born in 1929 Wisconsin. Shearer’s father was unstable and her mother left him, while Laura’s father was the glue that held the family together. Both character and icon started acting early; both had unstable sisters; both fell in love and were happily married to the young genius producer running their studio named Irving, who died tragically young; they both had sons who were Jr.'s; each won an Academy Award early in their career; neither character or icon ever had the typical problems that plagued many of their counterparts. And in an interesting twist, Laura’s best friend is a character based (undoubtedly) on Lucille Ball…right down to the red-hair and the phenomenally successful TV show of the 1950s.
If you're seeking a salacious story full of Hollywood gossip, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is not the book for you. It's very much the introspective, quiet journey of one small-town woman battling grief, ambition and hope in equal measure. I enjoyed it…if for no other reason; I loved trying to figure out who else might be a thinly disguised star of yesteryear.
We will be discussing this book in the Better Than Therapy Book Club on March 27 at 2pm in the Library Boardroom. We are also presenting two Pre-Code film classics in March starring Norma Shearer:
--March 7 at 6:30 in the large auditorium, 1930’s The Divorcee (the film that Norma won her Oscar for) and
--March 14, at 6:30pm in the large auditorium 1931’s A Free Soul starring Norma (which again garnered an Academy Award nomination for Norma), Clark Gable (in the movie that pushed Gable to the forefront of public awareness), Lionel Barrymore (who won an Academy Award for this picture) and Leslie Howard.
Join us for our foray into the Golden Age of Hollywood with this book and movies. ~Leslie West 205.332.6620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.